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October 2021

Schizophr Res. 1997 Dec; 28(2-3): 257-65.

Altered consciousness states and endogenous psychoses: a common molecular pathway?

Ciprian-Ollivier J, Cetkovich-Bakmas MG.

University of Buenos Aires, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Argentina.

Interest in the role of indolamines in the pathogenesis of psychoses has been renewed in recent years by the development of atypical antipsychotic drugs such as clozapine, olanzapine, and risperidone, which act on serotonin receptors. Discovery of the hallucinogenic compounds called methylated indolealkyalamines (MIAs) (e.g. N,N-dimethylserotonin, or bufotenin, and N,N-dimethyltryptamine, or DMT) led proponents of the transmethylation hypothesis of schizophrenia to theorize that through some inborn error of metabolism, serotonin or tryptamine might undergo the addition of extra methyl radicals, thereby forming MIAs with hallucinogenic properties. Various studies have attempted to detect the excretion of MIAs, especially DMT, in the body fluids of psychotic patients and normal controls. Some of these studies have demonstrated elevated MIA concentrations in psychotic patients, including those with schizophrenia, compared with normal persons, and others have not. A number of variables may account for these contradictory findings. The mechanism whereby the beverage ayahuasca, which is used in certain cure and divination rituals in the Amazon Basin, exerts its hallucinogenic effects may serve as a model to explain the mechanism underlying hallucinogenic symptoms in schizophrenia and may lend support to the transmethylation hypothesis. Certain studies suggest that specific perceptual disturbances manifested by schizophrenic patients could contribute to progressive deterioration and negative symptomatology. All these findings point to the need for further study of the neurophysiology of MIAs and their pathogenetic role in endogenous psychoses.

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